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NBA

Don't take LeBron James versus Luka Doncic for granted

LeBron James went 3-1 against Luka Doncic during the regular season.
LeBron James went 3-1 against Luka Doncic during the regular season. (Getty Images)

Somehow, LeBron James is still competing at an unfathomable level in Year 17, looking like the prime version of himself at 35 years old.

Somehow, Luka Doncic carries himself like a 10-year veteran in the thick of his prime, looking nothing like what we've come to expect from a player at 20 years old.

James was Doncic's favourite player growing up and the similarities in particular areas of their game is uncanny. Their basketball IQ, court vision, passing, playmaking ability, demeanour and leadership are all things that come to mind.

What Luka is doing at age 20 is something we haven't seen since, well, LeBron at age 20.

MORE: Is Luka having the best season ever by a 20-year-old?

That we get to see these two players compete against each other on a somewhat level playing field is remarkable in its own.

Think of the circumstances that brought this perfect storm to life.

Doncic is already launching an all-out assault on the record books - mainly rewriting the triple-double section.

He became the youngest player in NBA history to record back-to-back 35-point triple-doubles. He joined LeBron as the only 20-year-olds in NBA history with a 40-point triple-double. He has the fastest triple-double in NBA history, recording the feat in under 26 minutes. He currently leads in the league in triple-doubles with 11 - just two ahead of James. Oh, and he also passed Michael Jordan for most-consecutive games with at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, a streak he kept going for 20 games.

And he did it all before his 21st birthday.

Utterly ridiculous.

Then, of course, there's the 35-year-old James who can legitimately gaze upon the wonders of the 20-year-old Doncic and engage in a generational "hold my beer" debate with his own utterly ridiculous on-court display of dominance.

No active player has logged more minutes in their career than James. He's played nearly 1,500 games when you include playoffs and yet, he hasn't slowed down. He currently leads the league in assists while still averaging north of 25 points per game and is a perennial MVP candidate.

One of the most well-respected advanced stats out there points to James being by far the best and most impactful player in the game. Still!

MORE: Where do James and Doncic rank among today's top 30 players?

Nothing about either of these situations is normal and it just further proves how supernatural these two talents are.

Who could forget their triple-doubles against each other in their first matchup this season?

Doncic posted 31 points, a career-high 15 assists and 13 rebounds against his idol but it wasn't enough. James went off for 39 points, 16 assists and 12 rebounds, one-upping his understudy for a win over the Mavericks.

It's a game Doncic will never forget for the rest of his life, as James gave him the ultimate praise after the contest, telling him he's a "bad motherf*****".

"That was just some crazy stuff for me," Doncic told the media after the game. "I've been following him, he was my idol since the beginning. Now I can play against him, play a game like that, the words he said after the game were just something real special for me."

LeBron furthered his admiration for the kid after the game, too. "Obviously he's a great young talent," he told the media. "I love his game, his ability to not only create shots for himself; but you guys know I love the fact that he can get great looks for his teammates.

"That's what I thrive on, that's what I've always believed in, and he just plays the game the right way."

They've played each other three more times since that battle with LeBron taking the season series at 3-1.

Doncic got the best of James in the second matchup, going for a near-triple-double of 27 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to LeBron's 25 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in a win for the Mavericks.

The third meeting was largely forgettable with neither star putting up massive numbers to back the first two matchups, and James dominated the Mavericks in the final matchup. LeBron went off for 35 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists to outplay Doncic's 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in what was one of the most frustrating games in his young career.

That was the last scheduled meeting between the two stars, with "scheduled" in italics because there's a very reasonable chance we could see these special players go head-to-head in the playoffs.

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The Mavericks are currently the No. 6 seed in the West with the Lakers sitting atop of the conference. If Dallas could jump into the four or five seed and Los Angeles holds the top spot, we could potentially see a LeBron versus Luka matchup in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Should that happen, forget unchartered waters because we'd be in unchartered parts of the universe.

We've seen the rising and falling trajectories of transcendant stars overlap, but not quite like this.

We got to see teenage Kobe Bryant against a tail end of his prime Michael Jordan, but it didn't have the same feeling. Jordan was still an MVP, but Kobe wasn't Kobe just yet, even if he was an All-Star. And by the time Bryant reached his prime, Jordan was suiting up for the Washington Wizards.

We missed out on LeBron versus Jordan by one year, though even if they had overlapped, rookie LeBron and Wizards Jordan isn't quite the same thing. A young Allen Iverson crossing over Jordan remains a memorable snapshot, but would anyone truly refer to that as an instance of equals squaring off?

This simply doesn't happen.

In fact, it never has.

10 years down the road when James is retired and Doncic is running the league, these are the moments we'll look back on to compare the two uniquely skilled, generational talents.

The point being - do not take LeBron versus Luka for granted.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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